Today, Taylor and
Andy Spencer are discussing The Mighty Thor 3, originally released January 13th, 2016.
Taylor: I recently learned that I have a reputation for being a strict teacher at my school. This revelation came as a bit of a surprise to me since I feel like I’m not any more strict than my fellow teachers. I’m not bothered by having this reputation but I do find it interesting that I had no idea this is how I was viewed by my students. But I guess that’s ultimately the thing about a person’s reputation; no matter how hard you work to craft it or understand it, you ultimately have no control over what it is. For most of us this isn’t a huge issue, we move on with our lives no matter how others view us. If you’re Loki, however, and the fate of the ten realms rests on your actions and how others see you, it’s a completely different story.
Loki is seemingly set to do battle against Thor as the war in Alfheim rages. But nothing is ever as it seems with Loki and instead of fighting he just wants to talk. Thor knows that simply talking to Loki can be dangerous and smashes off his head, which leads Loki to summon copies of himself from all ages to help him make his point. Naturally, Thor isn’t pleased by this and after defeating Lady-Loki, she seemingly sacrifices herself to prevent all of Alfheim from being destroyed by Roxxon made bombs.
Even though this series is called The Mighty Thor, this third issue clearly belongs to Loki. Thor, meanwhile, acts the foil to Loki and as the latter astutely points out, her way of dealing with him is almost exactly the same as the Odinson’s. However, you can’t blame Jane for this. As she reminds us, last time she met Loki (as a human) he nearly killed her. Given that and Loki’s reputation as a trickster, it’s hard to argue with her approach of walloping Loki first and talking later.
Of course the weird thing about this whole series of events is that Loki, no matter how much he gets beaten, refuses to retaliate against Thor. His claim of wanting just to talk to Thor appears to be genuine — or at least as genuine as you can get with him. Loki even calls on some past incarnations of himself to vouch for him.
This scene is rendered wonderfully in the above panel by the always stunning Russell Dauterman. Here, he faithfully captures the likenesses of all the previous incarnations of Loki but does so in a way that maintains his own style. Most of these character designs were first generated by other artists, but Dauterman makes them his own with his trademark detail, with beautiful coloring by Matthew Wilson. Additionally, Dauterman gives us a masterclass in figure drawing here. All of the Lokis, whether they be children, monsters, old, or cats, stand with the exact same posture. Everyone pictured here has their hip cocked and their head tilted slightly to the right. It all suggests that while they may be different, all of these Lokis are essentially still part of one thing, one god.
But here’s where the issue gets really interesting. All of these Lokis seem to have their own mind and their own volition. While the lead Loki continues to tell Thor that he wishes to talk, the other Loki’s get impatient. Most notably, female Loki engages in battle with Thor because she doesn’t like the idea of simply talking to the enemy. Soon the other Lokis begin to voice their displeasure with standing on the sidelines and then a fight breaks out.
What I find intriguing about this development is what it means about Loki as a character. One could view this as Loki having spawned different versions of himself, all of whom have their own mind and volition. However, that doesn’t give Jason Aaron enough credit as a writer. I think he’s encouraging us to dig deeper than just viewing what’s on the page. To me, it seems like we’re seeing Loki undergo an internal struggle, externally. While we humans may simply struggle to decide what is the right thing to do in our mind, Loki actually has his struggle play itself out in a physical battle. Part of him apparently does want to try and walk the straight and true path. However, there’s another part of him that still just wants to be evil and deceitful. The fact that all of the Loki’s spawn from the same central Loki and that they all initially appear with the same stance only lend credence to the idea that this Loki battle is actually a character vs. self conflict.
This makes it hard to read Loki right now. His reputation would have us (and Thor) believe that all of these smoke and mirrors are simply a distraction to keep Thor busy until the Roxxon bombs arrive. What do you think, Spencer? Is Loki actually trying to turn over a new leaf? And of all the different Lokis, which is your favorite? Mine by far has to be Cat-Head-Loki which hails from The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl. What about you?
Spencer: Hate to steal your answer, Taylor, but I geeked out pretty hard when I saw Cat-Head-Loki myself, if only because it means Jason Aaron and Russell Dauterman are reading The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, and I think that’s pretty cool.
As for Loki’s motivation, I’ll admit that I’m a bit flummoxed right now. If indeed Loki wanted both himself and Thor to die, then we still don’t know why. Is he tired of his role, or of the constant conflict between his nature and his desires that the multi-Loki battle so aptly illustrates? Or perhaps he’s still being swallowed by the overwhelming guilt of having killed his younger self?
It’s notable that Kid Loki reminds us of that plot point right before Frost-baby Loki accuses present-day Loki of being too “weak and frightened” to go after what he really wants. That certainly sounds like an excuse some people use to explain why they haven’t gone though with killing themselves (although, obviously, that’s a good thing in that situation), and the moment when both the death of Kid Loki and present-day Loki’s supposed fear are brought up is when he finally loses his temper and lashes out. That’s suspicious.
But is Aaron digging that deep into Loki’s character and recent history here? How hard should I be looking at Loki’s evolution at the end of Al Ewing’s Loki: Agent of Asgard when I try to parse out his motives? Is Loki’s claim that he wants to die with Thor even true, or just another lie (as his speech about the work he and Thor still have left to do seems to imply)? It’s a new universe, there’s been a time skip, and this is Aaron’s first stab at writing Loki in a long while; with so much context unclear, it’s hard to get my bearings with just what, exactly, is going on here. I understand that’s likely the point — there should always be doubt when it comes to Loki’s motives — but as much fun as I had with this plot, it’s still maybe just a bit too obtuse for its own good.
Where the multiple Loki concept shines is when it focuses less on the question of Loki’s motivations and allegiances and more on what his constantly changing persona means for everyone around him — including the readers. Loki’s argument with “himself” just oozes meta.
This could easily be an argument between any of Loki’s fans or creators. Is he a better character as the ruthless villain, or as a charming anti-hero? Is his “character growth” something that can stick, or will he inevitably become a straight-up bad guy again because that’s just how comics work? Loki’s greatest enemy has essentially always been his pre-ordained role as a villain — be it ordained by in-universe mythology or Marvel editorial — and that may be the one battle he can never win. I mean, Kieron Gillen even infamously ended his Journey Into Mystery run by killing off his reformed take on Kid Loki because he knew the reformation would eventually be undone, and if it had to end, he wanted to end it on his terms.
That idea of inevitability, of this Loki not being the real Loki, also applies to Thor herself.
By now, Aaron and Dauterman have proven that Jane is worthy of the hammer, but no matter how true that is, it’s hard to overlook the fact that at some point, the Odinson will once again reclaim Mjolnir and become Thor once more — last night’s announcement that Steve Rogers will be returning as Captain America only drives that point home more clearly than ever. This idea establishes some parallels between Jane as Thor and the current incarnation of Loki, and that could be pretty important if they’re going to work together in the future in any capacity.
Taylor is right that this issue is light on Thor herself, but Aaron and Dauterman still find some room to peek into Jane’s head.
If anything, the absence of Jane’s monologue throughout most of the issue makes this moment more powerful. This is the first Jane’s actively mentioned her cancer throughout the entire issue, but this shows that it’s something that’s always on her mind. Becoming Thor is only so much of an escape, and even a war between realms is only a momentary distraction from her problems. That makes Jane’s heroism — that she can do so much and so constantly think of others even with so much already on her plate — all the more inspirational.
Well, I’m far past the amount of images I should be including in this article, but there’s one more moment I want to discuss before we wrap up.
We’ve talked about this before, but I absolutely adore the way Melekith’s war mixes magic and mythology with modern technology. This is probably my favorite example in the series thus far — the sight of giant, monstrous bats carrying bombs is funny enough, but that bold, modern font spelling out “ROXXON” on each and every bomb is a beautiful punchline. This is more than just a fun gag, though — mixing magic and technology seems to be an overriding theme of The Mighty Thor, and for the first time, I’ve noticed how that even ties into our title character. The Odinson always adored Midgard, but no matter how fiercely he fought to protect our world, he was never truly of it. Jane Foster is — as Thor, she’s a product of both Asgard and Midgard in a way no other being has been before. That makes her, by far, the most qualified hero to handle this particular conflict. I can’t wait to see how Thor deals with it.
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The internal conflict of Loki in this issue is great, and all of the stuff you talk about is very similar to my thoughts.
But my issue, as I discussed yesterday, is why is this happening? The idea of Loki’s alternates having their own personalities fit a lot of stuff happening with Loki and his magic at the moment. And yet, they seem to have too much agency. I spent the whole issue confused, because it made no sense for Loki to summon all these alternates when they do exactly what he doesn’t want them to do. Thor gets smashy, Loki responds using his magic for a pithy line while still trying to be relatively peaceful, but then his alternates start attacking everyone. You have to ask why Loki thought summoning an army of alternates was the right choice?
The great character work got clouded by the fact that I didn’t understand why this was happening. Why did the alternates go out of control? Did Loki know that would happen? If so, why did he cast the spell? Is it because all that mattered was stalling, so they both die? Except at the end, he suggested, to himself, that he wanted Thor to survive. So does that Loki didn’t know that would happen? THen what caused the alternates to have too much agency?
Loki arguing with himself and dealing with the recent character progression fighting with his historical place as the bad guy was great. I just wish I understood exactly why all of this was happening. Because even when Loki is lying, the lie should make sense. And I can’t understand why the alternate Lokis went rogue like they did.
Aaron writes a truly amazing Loki. In fact, I may want to say that this is the best Loki written in ages. Gillen and Ewing wrote amazing Lokis, but Aaron has taken advantage of everything they did, to give us a Loki that we at once want to believe and are truly suspicious of. Loki used to be obviously evil, not matter how he said his lies. Gillen and Ewing wrote Lokis that, by virtue of their main character status, that we were rarely suspicious of. We know they are good. With Aaron, we have enough evidence to truly believe he could go either way (I’ll make very clear, this isn’t a slight against Ewing and Gillen. Aaron only manages to achieve this, as Gillen and Ewing gave us the foundation).
And with such a great Loki being written here, I wish I understood what the hell happened with the alternates. Because I kept asking questions
I wouldn’t be quite so quick to write of Jane-as-Thor as being only temporary. After all, even though Steve Rogers is coming back as Captain America, Sam Wilson is still going to retain that title (something I 100% support, especially since Nick Spencer is going to be writing both Captain Americas.) By the same token, I think Marvel may very well be setting up a future where there will be two Thors running around in the Marvel universe; as per the end of the Secret Wars mini-series “Thors”, there’s an extra Mjlonir out though, so SOMEBODY is going to be wielding it. Marvel seems way more committed to change than DC at the moment where it took all of 3 issues for Bruce Wayne to return after being “killed” (discussions of whether or not that was commentary on Snyder’s part aside)
The hard thing about this is we have had similar situations. That’s what happened with Dick Grayson, until of course he returned to Nightwing (and then became a superspy in a move so good, I really hope he stays there. Avoids all the issues that have plagued Dick Grayson as Nightwing). Even if they make the decision to simply keep Sam Wilson as a Captain America, how long do you think that Captain America is going to support having two comics? And no matter what Nick Spencer does, who is to say the next creative team/teams on the Captain America books treat both book equally.
Even with the second Mjolnir in the universe, Jane Foster’s Mjolnir will return to Odinson (don’t they make that clear in the last Thor: God of Thunder comic?). And while Jane Foster may get to keep the other one, the question then becomes how long will she keep a book? In all likely hood, she will end up in a War Machine type position at best, if she doesn’t lose the hammer so another writer can return to a more traditional Jane Foster. There is certainly no chance she will remain the main Thor, just like there is no chance that Sam Wilson will remain the main Captain America.
I have to say, I love that Remender ended his Captain America run without reverting Captain America back to Steve Rogers. Turned Sam Wilson as Captain America into not just one writer’s story, but a legitimate era. But I’m also disappointed that Steve Rogers in returning so soon. I know that the new movie is coming up, but I can’t see a way of having Steve Rogers return to the mask without making Sam Wilson the ‘lesser’ Captain America. I mean, even Dick Grayson couldn’t feel feel like the main Batman, despite leading both Batman and Detective Comics, two of the biggest, most valuable ‘real estate’ in comics
And as much as it is the right choice to have both of them sharing the name, each with their own title, and with Spencer writing both books, I wish we had a bit more time with Sam Wilson as the sole Captain America. Especially when Secret Wars disrupted his era.
On your point about Marvel, DC and changes, that is interesting. Marvel have certainly changed a lot, but I wonder if any of the changes can actually be permanent. We know that the Odinson, Logan, Bruce Banner will eventually be the main Thor, Wolverine and Hulk again, just as we knew that Bruce Wayne would return as Batman and Superman would be repowered. In fact, I am sure that Aaron, just like Snyder, has a very clear plan about how Thor would return, and Odinson and Bruce Wayne are being treated in similar ways recently, having their own secondary stories that take place alongside the main story with Thor/Batman fighting Maliketh/Mr Bloom. In fact, if you ignore Convergence, Bruce Wayne and Odinson both returned in the first issue of Gordon/Foster’s comic, and stuck around as leads, even as they weren’t Batman/Thor. When it comes to changes, I think the more interesting place to look is at things like Batgirl, Grayson, Starfire, the Vision, Captain Marvel etc. Batgirl and Grayson have gone through major changes that have become very popular, and could very easily stick if given the right guiding hand (King and Seeley are making very clear they have plans to elevate Dick Grayson to a top tier hero, and I think because of that, they plan on making sure Grayson as a superspy sticks). Starfire and The Vision could easily have a Hawkeye style reinvention, if people can successfully handle the new style status quo. And Captain Marvel’s new comic seems positioned to give her an actual place in the Marvel Universe, so that she can truly be a foundation going forward. Regardless of which publisher has done the most obvious ‘change’ to their top tier heroes, the real test of who is prepared to change things the most is seeing how well Marvel and DC navigate the changes they are both making to second tier and smaller characters. And I think both publishers are makes their attempts, and I don’t think it is easy to say that one publisher will be more successful than the other
I can see where you’re coming from being skeptical about the changes to Thor, Captain America, and Hulk, but I think where this differs from past examples of another character “taking up the mantel” is that the new identities are very much tied to making the Marvel U a more diverse place. Marvel, I’d like to think, knows what they’re doing; they know that representation of more than just white men as superheros is important, so they made some of their most popular characters have non-white and/or non-male secret identities (and I’m all for that.) Maybe it’s true that things will eventually revert to the status quo, and the old guard will come back, but I’d like to see the new characters stick around. There’s two Spider-Men, after all, so I don’t see why there can’t be Two Thors and two Captain Americas (especially when having them increases the overall representation of women and people of color in the Marvel U). Again, though, you could be right, and I may be being naive, but I hope not. I hope it’s more like the Flash and Green Lantern; multiple superheros with the same code name.
Yeah. I am honestly really proud of Marvel for doing this. It is certainly the right thing. But sadly, the superhero comic market has a massive problem with the sheer difficulty there is in making a successful new character. Marvel are certainly doing the best thing they could, between doing stuff like this, and then also targeting new markets with things like Squirrel Girl, which are so unestablished there is no white male already ruling.
I really hope two Captain Americas is a permanent thing (the movies may help with this, as after Infinity War, most of the Marvel cast is gone. So why not make Sam Wilson Captain America from then on). There can only be one Thor, but whatever they call Jane Foster afterwards, I hope she gets her own book. Two Spidermen and two Hawkeyes is already a great sign.
So having two Captain Americas is a great sign, but I also worry that the institutional problem of superhero universe (that it is so hard for any character who wasn’t a major deal in the 60s to become a big deal) will mean that, at the end of the day, Steve Rogers will always be the ‘real’ Captain America. The Steve Rogers book will get the higher sales, and after Nick Spencer, Steve Rogers will be the ‘main’ book.
Honestly, you bring up Green Lantern as an example, but I think Green Lantern is a great example of the problem. Yes, we have 5 Green Lanterns. But the straight white Hal Jordan gets Green Lantern, the most important book in the line and the one that drives the other books, and is positioned as the main character in most storylines. The black John Stewart gets Green Lantern Corp and the part Hispanic Kyle Rayner (though until the amazing Omega Men, this fact was forgotten) gets New Guardians. And Simon Baz hasn’t even had a book since Hal Jordan took the book back. All the diverse Lanterns, despite being called Green Lantern, exist in the wake of Hal Jordan’s book. I wish I knew the solution, but I don’t. Marvel is doing the best they can, but they are in a really hard situation.
Honestly, it is going to be interesting to see how the Captain Marvel movie goes. Guardians of the Galaxy was so successful that Star Lord is now a big deal, so if Captain Marvel is great, it could be the thing that really boosts Captain Marvel to the same level as Tony Stark, Steve Rogers and stuff (though things like Civil War 2 help)
If there’s anything that makes me more optimistic about Marvel’s recent changes having staying power, it’s that Steve Rogers is coming back in a separate book. I don’t think you’re wrong to suggest that the market may not ultimately support two Captain America books, but I think it’s easier to get buy-in on the second title when it’s the long-established, beloved character anchoring the new book, rather than the new guy. This way, Sam has plenty of time to build up an audience as Captain America — an audience that might not have bothered if there was a Steve book running at the time. If Marvel reintroduces their other “original” heroes in separate series, they’ll have effectively turned their old guard into second-tier comics; sidekick books to the main act that continues with Jane, Amadeus, etc. The market may ultimately overturn that decision, but I think Marvel’s gamble is that the more diverse line will bring in new readers, giving the newer heroes staying power. I really hope that gamble pays off!
Honestly, I just realized what I think they should do with Jane Foster. It would be hard, but possible. Instead of giving her the second Mjolnir, why not create a brand new superhero identity. Work out the key aspects that make Jane Foster work (the great thing about this is that the key element, that Jane is only THor while she holds the hammer, is something the Thor mythos traditionally ignored with Odinson).
I have doubts on how the separate book thing happens, as that is exactly what happened with Dick Grayson Batman (in fact, Dick Grayson got to keep the ‘main’ books) and yet still reverted to Nightwing. Even if Sam WIlson stays as Captain America, who is to say he won’t turn into the Kate Bishop Captain America. The character who, despite also being Captain America, is the sidekick.
But if Aaron could use Thor to justify Jane Foster has a superhero who deserves a high selling book, and then give her a brand new mythos that plays to all her strengths but exists alongside, instead of secondary to Thor, that would be amazing.
Alas, we’ll never know how Grant Morrison would have concluded his Batman run outside of the New 52 relaunch, but I’m certain he didn’t intend for Dick to be reverted back to Nightwing when he was (actually, there’s no real reason that Dick ever had to stop being Batman as far as Morrison’s story was concerned). I have absolutely no idea what the sales were on Batman and Detective Comics at the time, so I’m conjecturing pretty hard here, but I suspect that the decision to revert back to Bruce at the relaunch had more to do with appealing to new fans (who might be confused at someone other than Bruce Wayne being Batman) than any kind of failure of the DickBats experiment — DickBats was just collateral damage from the relaunch. Either way, it was an editorial decision, and I have a LOT more faith in Marvel’s editors to both make better decisions and pull those decisions off with more grace than DC ever does. I mean, we’ve already seen Sam as Cap and Jane as Thor live through Secret Wars into a second volume of their respective titles, which might have been the time DC would have opted to revert them back to their former roles.